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Minor v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division

January 12, 2017

FRANCES MAY MINOR PLAINTIFF
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Frances May Minor (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act (“The Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2010), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and a period of disability under Title II of the Act.

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2009), the Honorable P. K. Holmes, III referred this case to this Court for the purpose of making a report and recommendation. In accordance with that referral, and after reviewing the arguments in this case, this Court recommends Plaintiff's case be REVERSED AND REMANDED.

         1. Background:

         Plaintiff protectively filed her DIB application on September 13, 2012. (Tr. 10). In this application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to depression and arthritis in right knee. (Tr. 199). Plaintiff alleges an onset date of September 1, 2010. (Tr. 10). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. Id.

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on April 25, 2013. (Tr. 131-132). Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on November 26, 2013. (Tr. 30-75). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Laura McKinnon. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) John Massey testified at this hearing. Id. At this hearing, Plaintiff was forty-four (44) years old and had an eleventh grade education (Tr. 33).

         On June 3, 2014, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 10-23). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status of the Act through June 30, 2014. (Tr. 12, Finding 1). The ALJ also found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 29, 2010. (Tr. 12, Finding 2).

         The ALJ next found Plaintiff had severe impairments that included multiple musculoskeletal disorders, obesity, and a mental disorder. (Tr. 12, Finding 3). Despite being severe, the ALJ determined those impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the Listings of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr. 13, Finding 4).

         In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 15-21, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform sedentary work except she can only occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl, but cannot climb ladders, scaffolds, or ropes; and is limited to work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed, the complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote, few variables, little judgment, and supervision is simple, direct, and concrete. Id.

         The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 21, Finding 6). The ALJ found Plaintiff was unable to perform any PRW. Id. The ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 22, Finding 10). The ALJ based his determination upon the testimony of the VE. Id. Specifically, the VE testified that given all Plaintiff's vocational factors, a hypothetical individual would be able to perform the requirements of a representative occupation such as a production worker with approximately 490 such jobs in Arkansas and 28, 700 such jobs in the nation, inspector with approximately 160 such jobs in Arkansas and 13, 400 such jobs in the nation, and production helper with approximate 170 such jobs in Arkansas and 6, 600 such jobs in the nation. Id. Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability as defined by the Act from September 1, 2010 through the date of the decision. (Tr. 23, Finding 11).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 4). On August 27, 2015, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On November 2, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present appeal. ECF No. 1. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 9, 11. This case is now ready for decision.

         2. Applicable Law:

         In reviewing this case, this Court is required to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2010); Ramirez v. Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of the evidence, but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. See Johnson v. Apfel, 240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). As long as there is substantial evidence in the record that supports the Commissioner's decision, the Court may not reverse it simply because substantial evidence exists in the record that would have supported a contrary outcome or because the Court would have decided the case differently. See Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). If, after reviewing the record, it is possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the findings of the ALJ, the decision of the ALJ must be affirmed. See Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).

         It is well-established that a claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the burden of proving his or her disability by establishing a physical or mental disability that lasted at least one year and that prevents him or her from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. See Cox v. Apfel, 160 F.3d 1203, 1206 (8th Cir. 1998); 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act defines a “physical or mental impairment” as “an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. §§ ...


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